March 7, 2022

War in Ukraine

“Fighting stopped about 200,000 people from evacuating the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol for a second day in a row on Sunday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to press ahead with his invasion unless Kyiv surrendered… The invasion has drawn widespread condemnation around the world, sent more than 1.5 million Ukrainians fleeing from the country, and triggered sweeping Western sanctions against Russia aimed at crippling its economy.” Reuters

Many on both sides urge additional material support for Ukraine:

“The Biden administration has been wise to reject a NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine, even though one of the people who has called for it is Ukraine’s redoubtable president, Volodymyr Zelensky. There would be no way to enforce such a measure without large-scale deployment of U.S. and other NATO aircraft, and their engagement in direct combat with Russian forces. This would dramatically escalate the war in pursuit of relatively marginal benefits: most of the damage being done to Ukraine right now is from ground-launched artillery and missiles, not from high-explosive weapons delivered by Russian aircraft. Indeed, Ukraine has already had some success shooting down helicopters and planes with its own arms, including mobile antiaircraft missiles supplied by NATO…

A better plan would be to continue that vital flow of weaponry while enabling Poland to send its available Soviet-vintage fighter aircraft to Ukraine for use by the latter country’s own pilots. The United States would have to offset Poland’s transfers to Ukraine by supplying new U.S.-made planes. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Sunday that the Biden administration would support this three-way exchange.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“In the Korean War, American pilots reported hearing ‘North Korean’ MiG-15 pilots speaking Russian. The suspicion that the Soviets not only supplied aircraft but the pilots to the North Koreans was later confirmed. Yet this did not result in a broader conflict with Russia, or the USSR, at the time…  

“A couple decades later, the USSR supplied Egypt and Syria with massive quantities not just of defensive weapons, such as SAM batteries, but also offensive weapons, such as fighter jets, which both Arab countries used in their wars against Israel. As in Korea, Soviet pilots actually flew the aircraft in many cases. Yet this did not draw the USSR into direct conflict with Israel. Russian president Vladimir Putin might be reminded of this history, should he threaten escalation over any such provision of aircraft.”
John Ullyot and Thomas D. Grant, National Review

A military perspective

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove writes, “Ukrainians are holding their own on the ground; it’s air assistance they need most. Their army has much improved since 2014, but the navy and air force still have challenges. America is finally providing Stinger surface-to-air missiles; NATO has been for some time, but they’re made for low-altitude air defense. Get them systems giving them medium- and high-altitude defense capabilities… Ukrainians also know how to fly the Soviet-made MiG-29s that Eastern European nations have offered for transfer. This would be a concrete and much-needed addition to their capabilities…

“Every day we see the growing human disaster of Russia’s criminal attack. NATO should establish a humanitarian no-fly zone immediately to protect corridors to provide food, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief to Ukraine’s beleaguered civilians. If constructed carefully, this does not have to be an act of war: Cover western Ukraine, stopping at Kyiv, and go no farther east to avoid conflicts with Russian forces… Sanctions have and certainly will hurt the Kremlin and the Russian people, but they have not changed Putin’s behavior. The West needs to move to active deterrence to change Putin’s calculus.”
Philip Breedlove and Iulia Sabina-Joja, New York Post

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